Volume 43, Issue 12 - December 2008

From the Fabricator

Something for Nothing
Looking for a "Free Lunch" in the Glass Industry
by Dez Farnady

We learn at a very early age that there is a price of one sort or another for everything. The fact that there is no free lunch has become a clichť with which most grammar school kids are familiar even if they are not quite sure what it really means. Yet as grown-ups and mature adults, we still keep waiting for Ed McMahon to show up at the house with a million dollar check from Publishers Clearing House. We spend zillions for lottery tickets because we are sure we are going to hit the big one. All while in the back of our minds, deep down, we know that there is no free lunch and we are not very likely to get something for nothing. 

I suppose expecting perfection in the glass business is not quite the same. We are not expecting something for nothing. The idea of a perfect piece of glass is a pipe dream resulting from the quality of float glass that has forever spoiled us and made us believe that seeds and strings and reams, sometimes acceptable glass flaws in the old days, are forever left in the past. And it practically is, so I guess thatís not quite the same as something for nothingóbut expecting perfection in low-E glass is.

Look Away from the Low-E
With low-E, it is seldom the quality that is the issue but the sheer existence of the coating itself. Here is the something for nothing. Customers and even people in the business expect a piece of low-E glass to look like and have the clarity of low-iron (low-I) glass. Not even clear glass seems to be good enough. The expectation is that this perfectly clear, spotless piece of glass will provide some of the magic performance attributed to the current versions of the low-E products. Come on, get serious. How in the world can anyone imagine that performance levels evidenced by the Solarbans and low-E2s can be done with magic tricks? 

A wavelength selective performance product, obviously by definition, has to have some impact on the full spectrum of visible light, so why are people surprised if there is some visible evidence that there is something on the glass doing the work? Please remember that you canít get something for nothing. Yes, sometimes under certain light conditions from certain angles the glass does not look like itís quite clear. Yes, under some extreme conditions the colors of the rainbow seem to show up. Yes sometimes it may appear that there is a coating on the glassówell, surprise, surprise, there is. Get used to it. Thatís what does the work. As with the float quality, the glass is too good. Contemporary coatings are color-neutral and, while performance levels constantly increase, the coating remains so light and so ďinvisibleĒ that people donít want to believe itís there. Well, sorry guys, it is, and sometimes you even get to see it. Itís sort of like going to see a magic show and finding out that itís not magic at all and David Copperfield canít really make an elephant disappear, itís only a trick. Maybe we should all approach the market from the other side by saying that there is all this stuff on the glass but by means of some industry trickery we are hiding it. If you chance to see it, you have peeked behind the magicianís curtain and have been privy to a seldom-divulged trade secret that you have to take with you to the grave. Calling the supplier and complaining about the coating on your glass definitely is not acceptable. 

What, Glass Breaks?
The other little thing that occasionally falls into the category of the something for nothing desire is a customerís unquenchable appetite for glass that does not break. Here we go again. When you buy a piece of glass you are expected to be familiar with its basic characteristics. Chief among them is that, being glass, you can see through it and second, and equally familiar, is the fact that the stuff breaks. So why are people shocked when the stuff does break? They always want to come back and have it replaced for nothing. No, sorry there is no free glass. You know that glass breaks and you knew it when you bought it and you did not ask for or buy or pay for unbreakable glass. Maybe you should have asked for plywood. You get what you get and sorry once again but lunch is not free.


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